Today as many Americans gather to watch the Superbowl, I remember the first time I was abroad on a different American holiday — the Fourth of July. I was 17 and was in Florence studying Italian for the summer. The school had a special Fourth of July meal with traditional American food — burgers, fries, ice cream, etc. — and I remember how strange it felt to realize that the Fourth of July wasn’t celebrated everywhere. The school was just being nice to its American students.
Of course the Superbowl isn’t actually a holiday, but in the States it might as well be. It’s the most widely-watched sporting events of the year, and a single 30-second ad during the game costs advertisers $5 million (or $166,666 per second). The half-time show is always a huge production—this year’s show features Justin Timberlake—and it’s just generally a time of both rivalry and fellowship for families across the nation.
For many people worldwide, though, the Superbowl is, “What? Oh yeah, that American thing.” In these countries people get excited about the World Cup, or Wimbledon, or The Grand National, or Polo, or . . . I once met a group of Australians while traveling with friends in Thailand. The Australians were trying to explain Australian football to us, and we Americans were like, “What?”
It’s interesting how much pride people take in team sports, though. In the South, college football is king, and people are loyal to their “home team” until death. I’ve never been a big sports fan, but I do think that to ignore the power of sports is to miss out on an important cultural phenomenon. The kinds of sports we play, the rules, the players, the fans, the coaches, the actions of everyone involved — these things matter. There have been numerous examples over the years of big-name sports players acting like total jerks both on and off the field. Just because someone’s a big name player doesn’t mean they should get a pass to be a jerk, though. If anything it means we should hold them to a higher standard. After all, these are people our children look up to and who represent America to the world. No one likes an arrogant whiner jerk. So why do we tolerate players who act that way?
Additionally, there have been mixed reactions to the amount some sports stars and coaches are paid. Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban reportedly earns a salary $11.125 million per year, and top NFL players like Tom Brady make more than $20 million per year. Holy cow! Now I’m not saying that these people aren’t worth the money they’re making, and I recognize that in some instances they’re actually putting their lives (or at least their health) on the line for the work that they’re doing. However, I am saying that the amount they make shows where our society’s priorities are — for better or for worse.
What are your thoughts on American sports and coach’s/players’ salaries? I am by no means an expert in this field. Just one American girl writing a post while the Superbowl is on — and I don’t mean on the TV. I don’t even own a TV!
P.S. If you haven’t seen the below SNL skits, you should check them out. Pretty funny!